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Transition and Gender Discrimination in Serbia

by bifadmin

Men are greater victims of transition than women, which led to the
family budgets increasingly depending on the latter. Nevertheless,
when all the data are taken into account, one comes to the conclusion
that transition was “blind” for gender differences, and that the
position of women has even relatively improved. The reason for this is
the fact that they work more often in the public than in the private
sector, where there was less sacking, writes Sanja Lazarević.

The wave of layoffs which has been splashing Serbia ever since the
year 2008, under the guise of the world economic crisis, has led to
the unemployment rate in our country, which is already extremely high
compared to the countries in the region, and especially in the EU –
further growing. In 2010, it reached the level of 22 percent, but what
especially worries macroeconomic experts is the reduced share of the
active population – people older than 15, of the working age, who are
seeking employment and wish to work.
In the shadow of massive unemployment and the growing fear for one’s
job, over the past few years certain structural changes occurred on
the labor market from the aspect of gender (un)equality, which pose in
a new way the question – who is bearing the biggest burden of the
transition: women or men?
Since 2008, the number of employed women has dropped by 68 thousand,
i.e. by 7.8 percent, while the number of men who are working has been
reduced by 135 thousand, by a full 12 percent, (all the data of before
the latest statement of the Republic Office of Statistics (RZS)), says
Miroslav Zdravković, editor of the portal Makroekonomija.org. This is
the result of the sector structure of employment by gender, since the
biggest drop in employment was registered precisely in the
construction industry, the processing industry and the entrepreneurial
sector, branches in which male workers are dominant. On the other
hand, women are more numerous in the state administration, health care
and education, where the total number of the employed has even
slightly increased.
However, the unemployment rate for women, according to the latest data
for April 2011 (22.5 percent) is still higher compared to the general
rate (22.2 percent), and especially relative to men (22 percent). This
difference is even more visible if one takes a look at the employment
rate which ranges around 29.8 percent in the case of women, and as
much as 43.2 percent for men. The reason for this is the fact that,
over the previous years, an increasing number of women has been moving
from the category of those seeking a job to – the inactive part of the
population, i.e. giving up on the intention to work.
More than the employment rate, extremely important is the activity
rate, which, in the period between 2001 and 2009, dropped in our
country among both genders. However, it was much more drastic in the
case of women, and it now ranges around 41.4 percent, compared to 57.7

percent of active men, says Miroslav Zdravković and adds that such a big difference, apart from

Serbia is present also only in Islamic countries, Macedonia, Bosnia-
Herzegovina and Montenegro. One of the goals of the EU is for the
activity rate to reach 75 percent, which is for now the case only in a
few Baltic countries.
We are, obviously, still extremely far from this goal. Why were women,
over the previous years, more ready to abandon their carrier and a
search for a job, as well as all the rights stemming from this – it is
more a social than an economic issue, but a survey has shown that the
number of newly born children in Novi Sad and in central Belgrade
municipalities kept growing where the number of employed women grew.
This, in a way, refutes the assumption that women have abandoned their
intention to work because they opted to give birth and to take care of
the children. This is especially so since numerous other analyses and
data indicate that there is an increasing number of single mothers who
have practically become the main and often the only source of the
family budget.
The latest trends on the labor market – i.e. the larger number of the
layoffs of men over the past years – confirm that the economy of a
family increasingly depends on the woman. And women, even though they
have managed to preserve their jobs, especially in health care,
education, social welfare institutions or state institutions, are less
paid. This, however, is not our Serbian, or even a Balkan specificity,
and, according to this type of discrimination, we do not deviate much
from the European average.
With a 7.5 percent difference in average wages, we are a little worse
than the Slovenians and Italians, concluded Zdravković (the Eurostat
Table). A similar opinion is also shared by economist Mihail
Arandarenko, professor of the Belgrade Faculty of Economics, the
chairman of the FREN editorial council and chairman of the management
board of the National Employment Service, who says that, if compared
to the EU countries, this difference ranges between the middle and
lower level of discrimination.
“The field of the gender discrimination of wages in Serbia is covered
very well by empirical research, whose results are unequivocal”,
considers Arandarenko. The gap in the wages between men and women was
low in the second half of the 1990s and at the beginning of
transition, and according to certain analysts, at the beginning of
this century, it additionally dropped from 15 percent in 2001 to 6
percent in 2005. Even all the newer studies dealing with this issue
have found that the values of the “raw” gender gap are low and they
vary between 4.5 and 12.4 percent, depending on the period and source
of data, as well as the very model according to which the comparison
is made. One of the latest studies is especially interesting because
it compares the gender gap in Serbia with that in five former
socialist countries, where the author (Blunch) unequivocally concludes
that Serbia has the smallest gender gap in income compared to all the
other observed countries, from Macedonia to Kazakhstan. The author
concludes that this gap is most probably also the lowest compared to
all the other countries in transition, and among the lowest in
Nevertheless, when making such conclusions one should be very careful,
because it is always possible that there are dimensions of gender
discrimination in our country which cannot be fully “caught” by
standard econometric methods.
BIF’s interviewee, Mihail Arandarenko, notices that the transition in
Serbia is largely blind to gender differences, because the very
unemployment rate has dropped approximately in the same proportion.
The differences between men and women have been moderate for decades,
which is also part of the socialist legacy, and even small compared to
the world, while they have been additionally reduced since the
outbreak of the crisis.
“This is not the result of a deliberate intention of the creators of
the anti-discriminatory legislation, the economic policy or some
special action, but rather an “unplanned” consequence of the
privileged position of the public sector in Serbia compared to the
private sector, especially since 2008”, considers Arandarenko. Since
women are present to a greater extent in activities of the public
sector (health care, education, the administration), and men in the
private sector, the relative position of women on the labor market has
additionally improved.
The privileged position of people employed in the public sector
(regardless of the gender) can also be seen on the basis of the fact
that the average wage of women employed in this sector was 50 percent
higher in 2008 than the wage of women in the private sector!
Arandarenko also underlined that, for men, the main negative status
transition was from employment to unemployment, and for women from
unemployment to inactivity.
The mentioned data mostly cover the official structure of employment,
not including the so-called informal economy, i.e. illegal work, which
an increasing number of men and women opt for, around 400,000 of them
according to unofficial estimates. They also include those from the
category of the unemployed, but of the employed as well (afternoon
work), the inactive… If their professional status, the difference
between the real and the formal salary (on the basis of which
contributions and taxes are paid), the working hours, level of
education and a series of other details were to be included in this
story – the picture would, quite certainly, be somewhat different.
Women are More in Search of Jobs, and Men of Subsidies
The National Employment Service (NSZ), ending with 2010, had 384,396
women and 345,124 men registered, so that the share of women in total
unemployment is larger – 52.69 percent, but it is, nevertheless,
reduced by 2.84 percent compared to 2009. If one takes a look at the
age structure, the share of men in total unemployment is larger in the
category of those between 15 and 19 years of age and older than 55.
The average age of an unemployed man is 40, and of a woman 38.
Last year, more women than men found employment – 75,541 of them,
which accounts for 53.75 percent of the total number of the newly
employed. On the other hand, out of the total number of employed
persons who were fired last year, 53.34 percent are men.
In the annual NSZ Report one can see the share of people who have
applied for various programs which this service organizes for the
purpose of greater employability. For example, there is a larger
number of women among participants in job fairs (55.17%), as well as
among those actively seeking a job (59.1%). There is an even larger
percentage of women in the “Job Club” (72.75%), as well as the “Self-
efficiency training” workshops (77.5%). When speaking about the use of
funds, i.e. subsidies for self-employment, women are still in the
minority with a share of 40.49 percent.

Sanja Lazarević

July 29, 2011

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